Holistic Development for Kindergartners


Dr. Khin Myoe Myint Kyu
Chairman (KG Curriculum Committee)

Concerning resources, there are two types: material resources and human resources. A country which stands alone on material resources is very likely to face difficulties to pursue sustainable development. Most of the developed countries depend on human resources (e.g. Singapore, Japan, Ireland, The Netherlands, etc.) and as a consequence they achieve sustainable development.
Whether a nation developed or not is very much dependent upon the citizens’ development (human resource development). Hence it is necessary to nurture well developed citizens for the sustainable development of our country. Well-developed citizens mean not only those equipped with 21st century skills but also with physical, mental, emotional, social and moral skills.
These days, I have heard/read many (negative or positive) comments concerning our KG new curriculum. Some think KG curriculum was developed as usual or some consider that it was developed by the group influenced by policy or decision makers. In reality it is not like this. Developing the KG Curriculum Framework is the very first beginning step of the KG roll out and it was done by international/national curriculum experts. Many consultation meetings were conducted with the chairmen from academic subject committees, professors and pedagogues from universities of education, experts from the Myanmar Language Commission and other stakeholders. The National Curriculum Framework (NCF) for the Kindergarten is focused on the care, development and learning needs of kindergartners. The KG Curriculum Committee was formed after finalizing the KG Curriculum Framework and I (retired Deputy Director General, Pro-Rector as well, and have more than 37 year service in education) am the chairman of that committee. Three education experts — Professor Dr. Thein Lwin (Educational Psychology and Developmental Psychology expert), Dr. Myint Thein (Curriculum expert) and Dr. Win Aung (Language expert) – supervised the team for the development of the KG curriculum. By the end of the KG year, the child should be a self-directing, confident, happy, healthy, well-nourished, socially adapt, emotionally balanced and enthusiastic learner, wishing to continue to explore further educational activities, well protected in conditions of freedom, equity, and dignity who can contribute positively to her family, community and the country as a whole within South East Asia and the world. The specific aims of KG education are to prepare children to be:
(1)    self-directed, independent, and having strong sense of being;
(2)    well- nourished, happy, healthy, well protected and resilient;
(3)    emotionally balanced and enthusiastic learners, wishing to explore through further reading, writing, mathematical and knowledge-intensive activities; and
(4)    contributing to the wellbeing of the group (the family, community, and the country).
In order to achieve the above mentioned aims, the approaches and teaching methodologies are needed to change drastically; in the past the approaches and methods led to rote learning but now the new KG curriculum is designed to use (i) holistic approach, (ii) developmentally appropriate approach and (iii) thematic approach. These approaches will enable children to obtain higher order thinking skills, such as creative thinking skill, problem solving skill, inquiry learning skill, etc. We have to consider what type of children we want to nurture: just a literate person or an educated one. Here I would like to refer to the philosophy given by Sayargyi U Myint Han (retired DG of Myanmar Education Research Department) that “literacy is only a tool for getting education to a great extent in an accelerated manner”. In the past rote learning is rational,  but now we are entering into the 21st century and in order to keep pace with the knowledge explosion era, rote learning is no longer suitable for our human resource development. Holistic education is the best solution for nurturing children keep away from rote learning and encourage them for getting 21st century skills and higher order thinking skills.
Holistic education is a philosophy of education based on the premise that each person finds identity, meaning, and purpose in life through connections to the community, to the natural world, and to altruistic values such as compassion and peace. Holistic education aims to call forth from people an intrinsic reverence for life and a passionate love of learning. This is the definition given by Ron Miller, founder of the journal Holistic Education Review (now entitled Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice). The term holistic education is often used to refer to the more democratic and humanistic types of alternative education. Robin Ann Martin (2003) describes this further by stating, “At its most general level, what distinguishes holistic education from other forms of education are its goals, its attention to experiential learning, and the significance that it places on relationships and primary human values within the learning environment.” In considering curriculum using a holistic approach, one must address the question of what children need to learn. Since holistic education seeks to educate the whole person, there are some key factors that are essential to this type of education. First, children need to learn about themselves. This involves learning self-respect and self-esteem. Second, children need to learn about relationships. In learning about their relationships with others, there is a focus on social “literacy” (learning to see social influence) and emotional “literacy” (one’s own self in relation to others). Third, children need to learn about resilience. This entails overcoming difficulties, facing challenges and learning how to ensure long-term success. Fourth, children need to learn about aesthetics – This encourages the student to see the beauty of what is around them and learn to have admiration in life. (Holistic Education, Inc, Home Page)
To be in line with holistic education to nurture the holistic development of the child, the six learning areas included in the new KG curriculum are:
(i)    Wellbeing
(ii)    Moral, social, and emotional development;
(iii)    Communication;
(iv)    Exploring basic mathematics;
(v)    Aesthetic values and creative skills;
(vi)    Knowledge and Understanding of the World.
In the past the KG (Grade one) students had to study the subjects such as Myanmar, English, Mathematics and so on, while according to the thematic approach using in the new KG curriculum, the students will have to learn the topics as follows:
(1)    My Self
(2)    My Family
(3)    Our School
(4)    Our Community
(5)    Plants
(6)    Fish
(7)    Birds
(8)    Insects
(9)    Mammals
(10)    Climate
(11)    Festivals
(12)    Market
(13)    Water
(14)    Houses
(15)    Transportation
In the new KG system, teachers have to use play-way method and children have to learn not only literacy and numeracy but also aesthetic values, social skills, and higher order thinking skills through playing, drawing and coloring pictures, listening and telling stories, paper folding, role playing, counting, reading, singing, etc. They have to learn for (i) knowing self, their families, their friends, and their environment; (ii) accepting diversity among them and appreciating others’ culture; (iii) upgrading their resiliency; and (iv) developing eagerness to further learning.
UNICEF gives support in the development of KG curriculum and now the following materials are ready for kindergartners, teachers, and schools:
(1)    Activity books for kindergartners;
(2)    Teachers Guide;
(3)    Detailed Lesson Plans for teachers;
(4)    Big Book (for story telling);
(5)    KG Teachers’ Training Manual;
(6)    Posters (talking posters);
(7)    Language Guide and Proposed Stories and Rhymes.
Based on the research works, the following advantages will be achieved by students’ activity books:
(1)    Getting interest from the students;
(2)    Handling the pencil systematically; holding
(3)    Preparing writing for Grade One;
(4)    Getting fine motor skills;
(5)    Avoiding giving children strenuous homework;
(6)    Knowing children’s development through their exercise books;
(7)    Informing children’s achievement to their parents;
(8)    Improving eye-hand coordination;
(9)    Encouraging higher order thinking skills such as creative thinking, problem-solving skills, inquiry skills, decision making skills, etc.;
(10)    Improving their language through sharing experiences between peers and as a consequence developing self-confidence, interpersonal skills, resiliency skills, and emotional control. Actually, KG is the transition grade which places particular emphasis on the smooth transition from home and ECCD centers to the school environment and uses methods derived from Child Centered Approaches. The programs for Kindergartners are based upon the following ideas:
•    The child’s experience of fun at school;
•    A warm welcome from the teacher each day;
•    A child friendly environment with learning spaces and resources;
•    Welcoming and inviting classroom learning spaces to explore;
•    Lots of time to freely explore and play and learn new and interesting things;
•    A teaching methodology based in play, exploration, freedom to learn;
•    Free interaction between teacher and children, and child to child;
•    Flexibility of activity according to the needs and interest of the children;
•    Promoting independent decision making and problem solving activities;
•    Encouraging the participation of all children regardless of interest and ability, language and culture.
Assessment is carried out for each individual child and is always formative. The child cannot “pass” or “fail”. Kindergartner develops and grows and learn. There are no traditional formal written tests of examinations. Adults (teachers, parents, or family members) and children make judgments every day about their own competence and the competence of others – their knowledge, their skills and their attitudes and behaviors. They use these judgments to decide on actions to take in future. These judgments are the assessments of competence of kindergartners and this kind of assessment is one and the only one which best suits that level.
The most important thing is that the approaches and methodologies for KG have been totally changed from the past and thus KG teachers also need to change their traditional teaching methodologies. The Department of Teacher Education and Training makes plans for KG teacher training and within these days Training for Trainers are being conducted in Mandalay. Trainers should keep in their mind that they are crucial for showing the ways and means – what and how KG teachers should do. Successful KG implementation is very much dependent on KG teachers. Starting from the training they have to learn the new approaches and methodologies. Interest and active participation/learning at the training will make them well-prepared to enter KG classrooms with confidence that teachers should have, since they are the key actors not only for the children but also for the Nation’s future.
In brief, it can be concluded that kindergartners will learn not only alphabets but also knowledge, skills and attitudes to become well qualified human resources. Our ultimate goal is to achieve holistic development of the kindergartners.

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